As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough for the amusement industry, Hurricane Laura is currently and rapidly intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico, and could strike three Galveston-area amusement parks with heavy rain, high wind and significant storm surge.
While Kemah Boardwalk and Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier lie just outside the potential path of the growing storm, park enthusiasts can take heart that the parks are raised up on piers, sparing them from at least some of the potential storm surge.
However, Schlitterbahn Galveston isn’t as fortunate, and lies just a few feet above sea level on Galveston Island. All three parks face the threat of damaging winds, torrential rain and severe thunderstorms, complete with tornadoes.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom, park fans. Back in 2008, when Hurricane Ike struck the area, all of the parks did see moderate to significant damage. However, all three also rose up and operated once again.
It also helps that Boardwalk Bullet (a CRIMINALLY underrated woodie) at Kemah Boardwalk was significantly overbuilt (much like modern woodies in California are for earthquakes) for just such an occasion.
What’s truly unfortunate about Hurricane Laura is her timing. While a glancing blow could mean just a week or two of closures, in the COVID-19 era, these parks had just begun to recover from what was otherwise a miserable attendance year.
To put it a better way, Hurricane Laura is a proverbial “cherry on top” on the world’s worst ice cream sundae that is 2020.
So, as you go about your lives this week, do keep these three smaller parks in your thoughts over the next few days. As I said in my last blog, odds are that your local park could use all help they can get right now.
After observing and working in this industry for over 15 years, I’ve found there to be two types of people that enjoy amusement / theme parks in this country: those who visit to enjoy themselves with their friends and families; and those who visit the park to criticize every facet of the park or people who enjoy attractions that they do not.
I’ve dubbed them, “enthusiasts and enthusi-asses,” respectably.
I bring this up because there is an event occurring over the next few weekends along the Jersey shore that highlights this disparity within the ranks of those who consider themselves as “fans” of amusement parks – and has re-affirmed my belief in humanity.
First, a little background –
Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, with millions affected. Some of the most visible victims were the traditional, seaside amusement parks of New Jersey. When the first photos of the damage came in, the striking photo of a pleasure pier – with rides partially submerged in the surf – became one of the many iconic photos of the disaster. Several other seaside amusement parks, including Keansburg Amusement Park fell victim to the same fate along the East Coast’s shore.
It was a dark time for the owners of these traditional parks, many of which have been in the family for generations. With the storm still wreaking havoc, some people took to the internet to thank the hurricane for destroying certain rides, as if they somehow deserved this fate.
They never seemed to post anything about the families who had invested so much of their personal savings to purchase and install the rides; Let alone the incredible financial burden that was sure to follow.
A person who “enjoys” a specific hobby and who seems to only care about themselves and not others – I’d describe that person as an “enthusi-ass,” wouldn’t you?
So now, we come to the other side of the spectrum, to the “enthusiast.” Once the damage was fully accounted for and insurance issues resolved – the New Jersey region of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) decided that they were not going to stand for stupidity. They took to the internet, not to flame, troll or degrade an already bad situation…
No – they sprang into action.
The region created a repeating event they dubbed, “Dig out the Wildcat.” Its purpose: to assist the family owned Keansburg Amusement Park in removing deposited sand around their Wildcat roller coaster.
People helping people. Via the internet. Not yelling or flaming one another.
What a novel concept.
What will happen in the small, family owned amusement park on the Keansburg shore over the next few weekends is proof-positive that there still are good people in this world. Over 20 people have expressed interest in the event.
Even better, that group of people – who share the common bond of enjoying amusement parks – can unite to help out the very people that allow them to enjoy life to the fullest.
They know that there’s no opportunities for rides, or the coveted “exclusive ride time,” no – they simply want to help out their fellow human beings.
True “enthusiasts” in every sense of the word. True enthusiasts talk with action. In this case, it’s with buckets and shovels.
At least now we can see the true enthusiasts use their hands for good.
I only wish that I could get out there myself and assist them.